Climate ‘highly likely’ a factor in Hobart floods: climatologist

The swollen Hobart rivulet following the storm that caused floods in the state capital.
The swollen Hobart rivulet following the storm that caused floods in the state capital.

It is “highly likely” climate change contributed in some capacity to the Hobart floods, a leading climatologist says.

The floods, which swept through Hobart and its surrounds last week, saw homes inundated with water and cars washed down roads.

University of New South Wales academic Lisa Alexander said claims that the Hobart floods could have been caused by climate change were “quite reasonable” – but she stressed that floods were often caused by a range of other factors as well.

Associate Professor Alexander, who is also a chief investigator with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said extreme weather events like heat-waves were easier to attribute to climate change.

She said the waters in the Tasman Sea off the East Coast of Tasmania were a “hot-spot” for marine heat, which could influence the volume of extreme weather events experienced by the state.

“The temperature of the water is definitely a factor in storms,” Associate Professor Alexander said.

“The ocean drives a lot of our weather and climate.

“It’s highly likely events like [the Hobart floods] would have contributions from climate change.”

Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim has said the state should send the “clean-up bill” for the floods to the coal industry, while Hobart Lord Mayor Ron Christie also linked the floods to climate change on Saturday.

Former Tasmanian Auditor-General Mike Blake, who was the lead author of a report commissioned by the state government on the 2016 Tasmanian floods, told ABC Radio on Tuesday that extreme weather events like the one Southern Tasmania experienced last week would become more and more frequent due to climate change.

Flooding in the CBD meant that many businesses were either closed last Friday or workers were prevented from reaching their workplaces.

Several schools were closed as was the entire University of Tasmania campus where three buildings received significant damage.